Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Internationalization" - the big picture

It’s the third largest “export industry” in Australia and a $17.6 billion “industry” in the U.S. I’m talking about international education, which is big business in Canada too, contributing over $6.5 billion to the national economy and over $2 billion to the BC economy annually.

But those numbers only tell part of the story. The focus on internationalization in our new strategic plan [PDF] is about much more than offshore students studying here. The full picture of internationalization includes 4 activities:

  1. International students studying domestically
  2. Delivery of domestic programs and services abroad
  3. Creating international experience opportunities for domestic faculty, staff and students (study abroad, exchanges)
  4. Internationalization of curriculum
In Canadian universities, approximately 7% of total enrollment is from international students and approximately 2% of students have study abroad opportunities. The numbers for Canadian colleges are roughly half of that, with 4% of enrollment from international and 1% of domestic students with study abroad experiences.

Despite those relatively low rates of participation in international education, over 60% of Canadian colleges have engaged, to varying degrees, in all of the categories of internationalization noted above. Why?

Certainly, Colleges are motivated by the financial contributions of international students. But when it comes to making international opportunities available to domestic students, faculty and staff, the cost of these activities typically is not offset by the revenue they generate. The central question then is not what are the motivations, but rather what are the results?

Here we can point to the value of global citizenship, exposure to differences, embracing cultural diversity, and general enrichment of our students, faculty, staff and administration. While difficult to quantify, these benefits are consistent with liberal arts mandates and, in fact, with the mandates of all the post-secondary education and training programs that recognize the realities of both global trade and global citizenship.

Global economics has been characterized first by international trade in goods and services, and then by financial or capital mobility. Today, it is also characterized by international labour or human capital mobility. Post-secondary education and training, if for no other reason than to keep up, must move toward the full integration and participation of international perspectives.

Fully embracing international perspectives means recruiting international students and making international opportunities available for faculty, staff and students. And it also means internationalizing the curriculum as well as the institution as a whole. This is where faculty exchanges, co-teaching arrangements, research partnerships, and so on, help to create a culture of internationalization.

The question then for all members of the Douglas College community is: what does internationalization mean to you, and what concrete steps can we take to internationalize Douglas College? Please feel free to share your thoughts in a comment to this post.

This month, as part of my trip to China, I'll address the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade with a speech titled: Three Phases of International Education: Preparing Students for Global Citizenship [PDF]. The text includes the sources for some of the numbers I included in this blog post. --Scott


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